Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mountainous bicycle rides, trucked at Bloomingcross, and other random ramblings

Two mountain bike rides in two days!!!  Not that uncommon for me generally, but it had been 52 days since last riding fat tires.  Blasphemy, I know...but now I'm going to give a list of excuses that don't really matter.  Fool's Gold destroyed my brakes, my rear triangle had to be warrantied, and CX is so damn much fun!  Anywho, it was good to get out on the Cheroneca trails Tuesday and Wednesday last week and I'm pretty sure my handling and line choices were better than they had been all summer (though that didn't take much!)

Sunday was Bloomington and I had high hopes to finish well, even after preriding the course.  The main reason for high hopes being that USGP was coming up and as it stands now I've got shit for starting position (about 11th row).  Coach and I discussed a new race strategy that involved NOT taking the holeshot and saving those matches for mid race.  So, I hit the first turn third wheel  and moved up to second quickly... then, two minutes into the race, the plan failed.  A gap of about a bike length had opened between me and the leader starting into a straight away when the guy in third decided he was going by on the narrow side.  I had no idea he was there until my pedal went into his front wheel and he and both bikes stopped and I kept going.  Based on garmin data, speed was about 16-18 mph, though the garmin couldn't tell me how many times I rolled or how far I slid...

As for the crash, I can't pass all the blame, because once it happened and the leaning started I didn't react fast enough to get away, but the whole thing could have been avoided with a simple, "On your left" or a pass on the open side of the course.  I'm not going to try and deny a pass two minutes into a 45 minute race.  All was mostly well though, so back on the bike and off we went.  Derailleur hanger was bent, but the course was flat enough I could stay out of the easy gears and I rolled in for 8th of 18 on decent legs at best.  Not at all what I wanted, but that's just how it goes sometimes.  It was enough to hold onto the top spot in the series, but it doesn't look like that will last much beyond 7 races.  For the next two days it felt like I'd been hit by a truck, but nothing broken or torn so I feel pretty lucky honestly!

Power - revisited...
Saturday I got a call from Mike about a powertap for sale at the swap meet, and I'd been pondering for some time about buying one so since the price was right, I took it home.  What's this mean?  Well, I'm not totally sure but watch out world, I'm joining the ranks of overdataanalyzing cyclists!  It will help me to follow coach's workouts more closely and it'll allow him to track what I'm doing more accurately... power numbers don't lie like heart rate!

Looking from the road (because of course only villans would be getting tours) the course is going to be pretty awesome!  Some of the features (visible from the road of course) include a 0.2km-ish paved start, a couple of super steep ride/run ups, barriers immediately on the other side of 5 foot dirt speed hump, 30 yards of 8" deep fine sand, a soft steep descent, lots of velcro-like grass in an open field with a few twists, some barely 3m wide trail through the trees with sweet twists, and of course... the green monster!  I'd lost a good deal of excitement about this weekend after learning that OVCX 3's were not receiving call-ups (I guess we'll see what happens on Saturday) but seeing the course (from the... umm... road) I'm looking forward to it again!!

If you're in Louisville this weekend, come down to Bandman Park on River Road and see what cyclocross racing is all about!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

UCI3 - Java Johnny's and Harbin Park

Java Johnny's in Sunset Park was hands down my favorite course from the weekend, possibly for the season!  The course had flat straight aways to lay down power, but it had some tight twisty stuff too and it all flowed together so that brakes almost weren't necessary!
Going for hole-shot #2 of the weekend.
This was the third time this year racing two days in a row, so I knew what to expect including a stiff lower back after Friday's roughish climby course.  BUT, I liked what I saw/felt during the pre-ride and got a good warm up in.  On the line I knew a hole-shot was possible and that top 5 may mean the race so I went hard but not all in and took the first turn for the third race in a row.  I let Proppe go much earlier, but found a rhythm and stayed steady for 45 minutes or racing to finish 11/75+!  I set a new heart rate max at either 197 or 199 (different uploads show both) and averaged 184 bpm.  I wasn't ecstatic, as I wanted a top 10, but was definitely happy with the improvement from day one!

Into the sand in 4th.
Christine and I met her friend for dinner at a place called Teller's of Hyde Park and I'm no food critic, but damn it was good!  The Magic Hat #9 went down quite nicely as well...

And then comes day three at Harbin Park.  I'd never raced three days in a row before... hell, I'd never ridden hard three days in a row before!

In "no man's land" late in the race.

The course was pretty cool, but definitely fit the "roadie course" category.  Lots of power sections and very few places where mountain bike skills could buy much time.  It was hot and again we were told at the start line that feeds were not allowed...even though it was well over 68 degrees and 5 laps were imminent.  I was still after a top ten, but my body ached and I knew the power sections were going to hurt even more.  But ... the goal remained so after it I went.  Just before heading to the start line I decided just a little less tire pressure in the front would be good for the dusty corners and for soaking up bumps to take it easy on the body.  As I put my elbows on the bars on the start line I noticed that tire was setting awfully low... SHIT!  No one had a pump nearby and it was too late to slip to the truck, so I tried to relax knowing I had a bike in the pit and hoped it wasn't as bad as it looked.

After two hole-shots, I wanted the third one bad, knowing with a low tire it may be the last good note of the race.  So, I put my head down and took it!  Then, three turns later I dabbed out to avoid hitting the deck and lost a few places.  I held steady through the lap line and the uphill sandpit but decided to go ahead and take the other bike even though it was on the opposite side of the pit area.  Enter pit - 6th place, exit pit - 28th place = SUCK!  From there I tried to gain places but mentally never recovered.  It was pretty much a "hold your position" race to the end where I finished 26th of 77, missing my top 10 opportunity.  Ah well, two solid results racing with some fast guys; a lot that normally race elites!

A few thank you's are in order:

  • Uncle Jamie for a place to stay
  • Nicole B, for airing up my tire in the pit and having the bike ready a half lap later
  • Gavin for helping with the second bike swap
  • Christine for the cheering/support/good company
  • The Farmers for being good people (and BWE for great photos!)
  • And all the promoters, volunteers, and attendees for an outstanding weekend of cyclocross!!!
Post Harbin Park, guess I coulda zipped up....
Side note, because I'm one of only five guys to finish all five races so far, I moved up to first in the Cat3 OVCX Series!  Also, I pulled my points down under 400 for the first time!  Here

Friday, October 8, 2010

UCI3 - Day 1 - Devou Park

I'm gonna keep this one short...
Sunrise over the KY River
The course last year was muddy and barely rideable, but it was said to be a good course.  This year, it was on the other side of the road and NOT on the golf course after last year's race destroyed the golf course.  It was climby, which is good, but it lacked flow and there were lots of holes.  There was only one turn that I could rail without at least feathering my brakes most laps.  I guess with the space allotted, they did a descent job with the layout.
Coach, Messer, and Lucas on the Elite Masters Start Line
Warm up went fine, but I decided to race my pit bike because the brakes are quiet (compared to the carbon wheels) and the position is slightly more upright.  I thought this would be more comfortable on the downhills, but I'm not sure it helped.  Got my call-up, nerves were good, and I took the holeshot.  Not really the plan, but it just seems to happen.  John Proppe and I pulled away from the field and then there was a pileup of some sort behind us in the first dirt climb that opened our gap even further.  I didn't feel too bad, but knew I couldn't hold John's pace for long so when he came out of a turn with a gap I was fine to let him go.  Two other guys bridged up and I was fine sitting on them for a while feeling pretty good in fourth until they slowly pulled away.  Then the mind started working -- BAD!  I thought, "If I can just keep the rubber side down, top ten should be piece of cake!"  A few turns later, I came in hot and guess what... on the ground, chain off and loosing places.  Not sure exactly how far I dropped, but from there I bled some more places not handling the bike well and mentally not on top of it.  The last two laps I picked it back up and pulled a couple places back to finish 16th in my first 2/3 race.  Hoping for better tomorrow, but I managed to beat a couple of the guys that got me at Kings and TdL.
Trebon and JPow riding the "Run Up"
Great race for John who went on to take second and Travis Mullen who rode from the back to take the win!  I stuck around a lot longer than I planned and cheered for Coach, the women, and the start of the men's race then had dinner and a drink with my uncle and am staying at his place in NKY for the wknd.
Kersting on the Run Up

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tour de Louisville

This past wknd was OVCX #2 just 20 minutes from home in SE Jefferson county. The course was climby and tight, twisty, turny just like last year. Honestly, it should be a favorite course with the climbing, but I can't seem to convince myself to love it!

Looking across the hillside
The cat 4 race started just moments after I arrived, so I scouted from outside the tape and the first thing I saw was the middle Haley roll a tire at a tiny log crossing/turn, which ultimately got in my head. The rest of the course was full of off camber and tough turns, but was straightforward. As soon as the 4's finished I slipped in a preride with my normal 29-30 psi up front and 31-32psi in the rear tubies. Both times through I felt comfortable getting over the log, but was almost casing the backwheel and didn't want to chance a shattered carbon rim. So, the pressure went up by a couple/few psi front and rear and all was ready. I talked with coach a little and he reminded me to save matches and worry only about taking the first turn in top five, not necessarily the hole-shot and to turn a bigger gear in the power sections. The day before my legs were heavy and didn't seem to want to open up, so goals weren't that lofty for the day, just try to stay in the top ten for a chance at call ups for the UCI3 based on OVCX series standings.

There was extra motivation to race well coming from outside the tape with my biggest fan section at a race to date! Mom, Dad, Pop, and Christine were all out to watch and cheer in the first real cool autumn day, so a big thanks to all of them! There were also more voices than I could count yelling my name all around the course, and let me tell ya, it helps ya get up that hill each time and up from any spills!

So back to the action.... warm up went well enough and headed to he start area with the first call. Like normal, second row call up (even though I was sitting eigth in the series) but found an open hole on the front and squeezed in. Then we waited...for what seemed like 15 minutes for the kids race to wrap up and finally we got the 30 seconds call. I was on edge, but comfortable and the whistle went off! I put in two good pedal strokes and took it easy just as planned, only coming out of the first turn I had a couple seconds. So I just held steady expecting the field to roll up on my wheel and then we'd race. Goig alone for 45 minutes seemed unrealistic... Then I came out of the barriers with closer to 10 seconds! Not what I expected, but whatever. I put it in sustainable TT mode and continued on. The log was a piece of cake at race speeds and I came through the start/finish area with several seconds to a couple guys also breaking off the front of the field. This was good, if a couple caught me we could work together to put the hammer down. Then, making a turn to the steep climb I made a stupid mistake and tried to pedal through, washing out and leaving me running to the top! And of course, Ryan Kiel passed me here and never looked back...isn't he supposed to wait on me?!

Even after a screw up like that, I was able to stay relaxed and chase, the gap was steady if not shrinkig through the lap line (which was Ryan's fastest lap of the day). I wouldn't go as far as to say that I was having the best legs of the year, but I felt good...until I tried to get a little too much out of an off camber and wadded it up under the tape! Gavin and Spencer were there helping get things sorted out including putting the chain back on. I'm guessing 25-30 seconds off the bike and second to eigth, ugh!

Once again, it wa time to relax and chase. The rest of the Race was spent picking off one hare at a time except for one partial wash out and the last lap where I pushed it pretty hard to lay down the fastest cat 3 lap of the day. Finished in fifth and am happy.

The biggest accomplishment of he day was climbing into top five in the OVCX series so that I can get a first row call up at UCI3 this coming weekend after waiting later than I should to pre register.
One place I was able to gain time every lap!

Another thanks to @tallgirlky and Christine for the photos from the day (to be posted later when I'm not on my phone)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Field test, Shawnee, and power

I'm hooked... not just on fitness and racing bikes and the people and atmosphere that comes with, but the numbers behind it all too!  Saturday was my first power test and while I'm still learning what the numbers mean and how to improve certain aspects, the science behind training with power is exciting!  It let's my engineering mind geek out over something that I already love!

Sunday I raced Shawnee, again using a powertap.  I chose to race the pit bike since it already had a tire matching the powertap wheel and just to get more comfortable on it.  The course was very flat with only a couple of short six feet climbs and very few technical challenges.  For the day after threshold power testing, the legs were good, I just couldn't seem to remount the bike at speed thanks to a differently shaped road saddle catching my leg leaving me dangling on the back of the bike.  Pretty ugly a few times and that's being nice!  Finished 5th of 6 on the day, which wasn't what I was after, but I got some good numbers and am especially happy with the holeshot power data... let's just say I hit numbers that people 20-25lbs heavier than me would be happy seeing!  Now I just have to learn to distribute my matches throughout the race instead of striking so many at the start as well as learn to produce power at lower cadenence (these aren't 100 mile mt bike races anymore!)

Next up - Tour de Louisville...